The notes

In ABC notation, each note is represented by a single character, ranging from A to G. A not can also include accidental and duration information. The basic scheme is



Pitch is represented with a simple character. ABC music can range in four octaves; the most common ones are the central ones, represented with simple lowercase and uppercase letters:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B    (lower octave)
c  d  e  f  g  a  b   (higher octave)   

Two additional octaves can be represented with the , and ' characters, so here’s the full range:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, 
C  D  E  F  G  A  B    
c  d  e  f  g  a  b        
c' d' e' f' g' a' b'       


Accidental symbols immediatley precede the note they alter.
ABC notation works pretty much like a normal score in this respect; notes are assumed to inherit the accidentals of the tune key. For example, with a D (K: D in the header), a C note is assumed to be a C sharp.
When a note doesn’t respect the key accidentals, accidentals must be indicated explicitly, just like in normal music notation. These are the symbols used:

_   (flat)
=   (natural) 
^  (sharp)

For example, here’s a simple score in the key of D with 3 notes: D, C natural, E sharp, G flat

X: 1
K: Dmaj
D =C ^E _G

This is how it looks like in a score:


Duration is indicated with simple numbers, placed immediately after the notes. Any note without explicit duration is assumed to have the default duration, indicated in the L: field. If a number is present, the note duration is the multiple of this number and the default duration.

Here is an example with a quarter note, followed by a half note and and eigth note:

X: 1
K: Dmaj
L: 1/8
C2 C4 C

When the L: field not present, a default duration of 1/8 is assumed.

This is the resulting score:

Putting it all together

Here’s an example featuring three notes:

X: 1
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
^D2 =C E4

The notes are:

  • a 1/4 D sharp
  • a 1/8 C natural
  • a 1/2 E

And here is a the corresponsing score:

And this is all about notes!